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Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

Northwest Living
From Classics to Pattern Books
In two new volumes, the shaping of Seattle and its B.C. neighbors is traced
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For businessman H.T. Ceperley, Vancouver architects Twizell & Twizell designed "Fairacres" on Deer Lake in Burnaby, in 1911. The house and grounds have been restored for use as a civic art gallery.
ONE LURE of visiting other cities is the possibility of discovering what sets them apart from our familiar environs. Certainly, the residential districts of our neighbors to the north — Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. — do set them apart from us. The great stone and half-timbered mansions of Shaughnessy Heights in Vancouver or Oak Bay in Victoria seem different from those on Queen Anne and Capitol hills in Seattle. And the Dutch and American Colonials that dot Seattle's streetcar suburbs are less common north of the border. But bungalows and Craftsman homes are found in all three cities; and historic eclecticism seems to know no borders.

Two new publications give us fresh glimpses of these cities — of what they share architecturally as well as what makes them different. "Building the West: The Early Architects of British Columbia" (Talon Press) chronicles a staggering 400 individuals whose design expertise shaped cities from frontier settlement through the 1930s. "Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson" (University of Washington Press) examines a shorter period, the 1880s and '90s, when the influence of the Romanesque Revival swept the U.S. and Canada.
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Plan 41 in William T. Comstock's Modern Architectural Designs and Details (New York, circa 1881) was a "Suburban House" designed by Howe and Dodd.
In 1887, Boone and Meeker were the designers of the Charles L. Denny residence in Seattle, which was later destroyed. While there are minor differences, its resemblance to the published design is uncanny. Photo
Topography challenged the initial expansion of Seattle more than it did its neighbors. And fires drastically altered the central business districts of Vancouver in 1886 and Seattle in 1889. Victoria was spared major fires, so intact 1870s and '80s Italianate and French Empire commercial buildings still charm us. Because Vancouver and Seattle had to rethink fire codes, Romanesque Revival brick and stone buildings dot Gastown and Pioneer Square.

British Columbia was a colonial settlement, and its architecture was strongly influenced by British architects and engineers. But the shortage of trained professionals meant that the expanding communities were lucrative areas for work, and American architects came in search of it. Much of the work from the 1870s through the 1890s was done by itinerants. Elmer Fisher, whose Pioneer Square buildings gave post-fire Seattle some of its Romanesque brick skyline, set up a practice in Victoria in 1886. That year he took advantage of the Vancouver fire to get commissions for several commercial buildings. Through the first part of the 20th century, Seattle architects including Augustus Warren Gould, Edouard Frère Champney, W.D. Van Siclen and W. Marbury Somervell all found commissions in Vancouver.

During the transition from frontier settlement to city, neighborhood residential buildings in the simple vernacular of the time were embellished through the use of pattern books. Many of these were published by American architects, such as Palliser & Palliser, A.J. Bicknell and W.T. Comstock. Because these and other periodicals were advertised in newspapers and were in public libraries, they were accessible resources complete with floor plans and scale drawings of architectural details. Homeowners, carpenters and designers bought, borrowed and copied them. Consequently, early-day neighborhoods had similar buildings regardless of whether they were in British Columbia or Seattle. But plan books were not merely for the inexperienced carpenter. Local architects freely used them as well.
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Seattle's finest residential neighborhoods were promoted in postcards such as this one showing 14th Avenue East. In the foreground is developer James Moore's brick home, designed by William Kimball. In the background is the home designed by August Tidemand for Thomas Russell and built of Tenino sandstone — an appropriate choice given that Russell was the owner of Tenino Stone Quarries Co. Both homes were completed in 1902.
Another feature was attractive row-house buildings, which appeared in downtown Seattle during the 1880s and '90s. But these disappeared as the commercial district expanded. With the early development of streetcars and cable cars, single-family housing was encouraged. The attached-home form didn't catch on up north, either, despite its common use in Britain.

Neighborhood residential architecture in the 1890s presented a colorful mix of late-Victorian, Queen Anne, "modern colonial" (shingle style) and classical influences. After 1900, the wealthy and would-be wealthy generally opted for historically accurate Revival styles: Italianate, Classic, Tudor and Georgian for their new homes, shaping the character of north Capitol Hill, Mount Baker, Queen Anne Hill and Washington Park in Seattle; Kerrisdale, West Point Grey and Shaughnessy in Vancouver; and the Rockland area and the Uplands in Victoria. Because of their architects' exposure to the British Arts & Crafts movement, neighborhoods of British- and Scottish-inspired country estates grew in Vancouver and Victoria.

These houses shared their upscale garden, suburban neighborhoods with a bevy of Revival buildings by the region's finest architects. Shaughnessy Heights was one such enclave, a planned development by the Canadian Pacific rail interests beginning in 1907. The area shares some qualities with its exclusive country-club peer in Seattle, The Highlands, developed by private interests during the same time.
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Remarkable Craigdarroch Castle, built in Victoria between 1887 and 1890, was designed by Portland, Ore., architect W.H. Williams. The rendering is from West Shore, June 1889.
Middle-class workers with large families moved into frame houses with classical lines, particularly the two-story, four-square houses that are often referred to as "classic boxes." The form was as popular in British Columbia as it was in Puget Sound.

Throughout the West, it became common to see a variety of Arts & Crafts-influenced types, from the high-style half-timbered to its working-class relation, the bungalow. The American Arts & Crafts movement, influenced by the writings of Gustav Stickley, made these affordable housing options for newly platted neighborhoods on both sides of the border. Straightforward wooden bungalows and English country cottages filled the working-class neighborhoods of Ravenna, Ballard, Phinney Ridge and Wallingford. They are almost identical to those in Fairfield, Gonzales and Jubilee neighborhoods in Victoria and in Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant and Grandview-Woodlands in Vancouver. An interesting link among these cities is Elmer Ellsworth Green, whose Practical Plan Book of 1912 offered many home designs that can be seen in all three cities.

Hear the experts
Historic Seattle will host a lecture series to introduce two new publications on regional architecture. "Building the West: The Early Architects of British Columbia" (Talon Press) author Donald Luxton and contributor Stuart Stark discuss the evolving role of the architect in frontier culture and the art and craft of the historic interior. Authors Jeffrey Ochsner and Dennis Andersen discuss the building of downtown after the Seattle fire and the development of Seattle's neighborhoods and institutions. Their new book is "Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson" (University of Washington Press).

Lectures will be at the Volney Richmond Jr. Auditorium at Virginia Mason Medical Center, 1301 Terry Ave. at Seneca Street Feb. 25 and March 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets for both evenings (four lectures) are $30 for Historic Seattle members, $40 for the general public. Tickets are available at the door as space is available. Contact 206-622-6952 or

Lawrence Kreisman is program director for Historic Seattle. He serves on the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.

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